RELATED TERMS: Poeisis; Reflexivity and Reflection

The term praxis is one of Aristotle’s three main categories action, alongside poiesis and theoria. Praxis is taken to mean doing or acting, rather than making (poiesis) or thinking (theoria), although ‘thinking’ here is restricted to thinking about ‘universals’. Each form of action is associated with a characteristic form of knowing: theoria with episteme (knowledge of universals); poiesis with techne; and praxis with phronesis.

For Marx and later Marxist writers, praxis is contrasted with wage labour. Praxis is free, conscious, creative human activity, which alone is capable of generating knowledge and creating change in the social order.

Interesting contributions to the concept of praxis have been made by Jurgen Habermas and, particularly, Hannah Arendt, who revises Aristotle’s and Marx’s categorisations in her discussion of labour, work and action.

The questions that arise here for the design of narrative environments concern whether design is considered a form of praxis, in the Marxian sense, and what actions narrative environments may be said to perform, derived from but extending the Arendtian sense of praxis as ‘action’. Further questions arise in the context of whether such conceptions of praxis are humanist, which limits the understanding of action and agency within narrative environments as fields of actantiality, where ‘agency’ is extended into language, the built or constructed world and the natural world.

Further reading

Dunne, J. (1997). Back to the rough ground: practical judgment and the lure of technique. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Melaney, W. D. (2006), Arendt’s Revision of Praxis: On Plurality and Narrative Experience. Analecta Husserliana, 90, pp. 465-479.

Pilario, D.F. (2005). The Adventures of praxis: a critical encounter of three traditions. In: Back to the rough grounds of praxis: exploring theological method with Pierre Bourdieu. Leuven, Belgium: University of Leuven Press, 1–97.